John McCreery

Summer, fall, winter, spring all in one day in January

一月は春夏秋冬が一度に見れる。これは友達の横浜のゲリラ・ガーデンです。咲いている水仙、大きな里芋の葉、 紅葉、明るいの冬空。

My friends John and Ruth McCreery sent me these wonderful photos of their guerrilla garden in Yokohama. The McCreery’s adopted a neglected patch of land between the road and the parking lot of their large residential complex. I like how they captured the odd feeling at New Year’s in the Tokyo region when you see plants typical of all four seasons all thriving. Plants that I recognize include large leafed taro, red maple leaves, and  blooming daffodils.

Maybe nothing is more typically winter in Japan than the presence of all the other seasons!

Update: Later I received an email from Ruth explaining how the taro plant arrive in the garden unexpectedly:

To me, the taro plant is hysterical.
People dump unwanted plants (and other things) in our guerrilla garden. The taro is one. It landed near the compost heap, and thrived. Soon it was crowding out the Japanese iris, but it was so vigorous that we hated to axe it. Transplanting a fairly large plant can be tricky, so we waited until last February, when it was seriously cold, dug a big hole, filled it with the compost it loved, and moved it over there. We then watched anxiously, wondering if it would accept the move, if the wind in the new spot might discourage it–or blow it over–or if it would continue to grow.
It’s about doubled since then!

Technology-based farming for city people

My friend and fellow anthropologist John McCreery of Word Works told me about a project created by technology corporation NEC called Big Globe. The idea is that Tokyo residents who are interested in farming can participate in planting a small plot in suburban Saitama, and then watch via webcam as their vegetables grow with the aid of a caretaker. They are invited to visit during the growing season and at harvest, but have no responsibility to take care of the plants themselves.

I wonder if the webcam truly connects city people with farming. Big Globe seems like a mixed reality in-between the virtual Farmville, wildly popular on Facebook, and actually growing plants. I realize that many people in the city do not have much land, but as I have documented on this blog, it doesn’t take much space to grow a single plant or even hundreds.

Has anyone tried out Big Globe, or heard about it before? What do you think the role of technology can be in connecting city people with farming and nature more generally?